Listowel, Co. Kerry

Introduction | Religion, History & Culture In Listowel
Kerry Literary & Cultural Centre
Places Of Worship
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church: Built in 1829, St. Mary's is centrally situated in the Square. It was renovated and a spire and porch added in 1865. The side aisles were added in 1910. In line with reforms that followed Vatican II, much of the old altar was removed and the pulpit taken out. Local folklore has a story that Lord Listowel prevailed upon the clergy to ring the Angelus bell at 7.00 p.m. so that he could get an extra hours work from his men. In 1998 a huge job of rewiring and painting the church was undertaken.

Ardfert Cathedral & Abbey: Ardfert was once the capital of Kerry. St. Brendan founded a monastic settlement here in the 6th century and was the seat of a Bishop's See made by Saint Erc. In the Annals of Innisfallen Ardfert is referred to as Ahyferte which denotes "The territory of Ert or of miracles". The Cathedral was finished in 1254 and in 1641 when the castle of Lord Kerry was attacked and destroyed by fire, the Cathedral which stood adjacent to it was also destroyed in the fire. The ruins contain some of the finest examples of Irish Stone Craft as well as Hiberno-Romanesque, early and late Gothic architecture. Duchas, the Heritage Council are currently undertaking major renovations at the Cathedral.

Meeting Houses
Carnegie Free Library: This building at Upper Church Street is now home to Kerry Diocesan Youth Service's Listowel Centre, but from 1928 it housed the local library. The Carnegie Trust owned the building at first, serving Listowel and its vicinity. An earlier premises on the Bridge Road, was burned by the Black and Tans in 1921. The Carnegie Trust handed over responsibility for the library services to Kerry County Council in 1953. In 1995 the building has fallen into disrepair and the library moved to its new premises opposite Hall an Phiarsaigh. KDYS completely revamped and refurbished the building in 1997.

Cemeteries & Graveyards
The famine graveyard lies about a quarter of a mile outside Listowel on the Ballybunion Road. Teampaillin Bán (the little white Churchyard) is the Famine Graveyard where many nameless victims of the Irish Famine 1845 - 47 were interred in mass graves.

Listowel Castle: This 12th century castle is situated on the northern bank of the River Feale. It was around this focal point that the town of Listowel developed. The Castle has not been habitable for over 200 years and has been the responsibility of Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland since 1923. It seems that at the beginning of the 19th century, much of the stone from the castle may have been used to build some of the houses in the square. Today, all that remains of the castle are two square towers connected by an arch and the remains of a sculpted face - said to be a portrait of the builder McElligott. Conservation work is currently being undertaken on the Castle by Duchas in conjunction with the development of the Kerry Literary and Cultural Centre.

Old Church Tower: This imposing, 9 metre height, tower was once attached to the church from which Church Street gets its name. In 1819 most of the old church was demolished and the stones used to build the new church, St. John's in the Square. The old tower now covered in ivy, is all that remains of the old Church of Ireland Church.

Carrigafoyle Castle, Ballylongford: Located 9 miles north of Listowel just outside the village of Ballylongford, in the channel between the mainland and Carrig Island. It's name in Irish means "rock of the chasm". The present Castle was built by Chieftain Conor Liath O'Connor Kerry in 1490. It measures sixty feet by thirty, and it's walls are eight feet thick and 95 feet in height. There were six stories, with two floors resting on stone arches, now much damaged. It had forty small windows on the three remaining sides, all formed of cut limestone. There is a spiral stone stairway of a hundred steps leading to the top of the Castle where one can view the surrounding countryside and ocean for miles. The castle was the residence of the O'Connor Kerry chieftains after 1200 AD when the Normans invaded and dispossessed them of their lands in Kerry. In 1490 Conor O'Connor and his Julianna Fitzgerald built the current castle. IN 1580 Queen Elizabeth's forces during the Desmond Rebellions attacked the Castle, and a barrage of cannon fire created the breach seen today. Elizabeth's forces took the Castle and the residents were massacred. Between 1600 and 1602, Chieftain John O'Connor was able to take possession of the Castle again, but in 1649 the Cromwellian army captured the Castle and put an end to the O'Connor Kerry as a ruling class. In 1666 the Castle and the O'Connor Kerry estates were forfeited and bestowed by Act of Settlement on Trinity College. The Castle has been under the control of the Office of Public Works (now Duchas) since 1923.

Rattoo Round Tower, Ballyduff: This is the last remaining complete round tower in Kerry and was constructed in the 12th century. Standing at 92 feet, it is not as high as others but it is one of the finest in Ireland. Internally it consisted of six floors and the top storey has windows facing the cardinal points. This marks the existence of substantial monastery in Gaelic times. Some hundreds of yards east of the Tower there are ruins of a fine 15th century priory church and Augustinian Abbey. The monastery was destroyed by the Irish in 1600 on the approach of the English under Wilmot. Early in the 17th century it was held by Anthony Staughton in whose family it remained until the War of Independence, when the ancestral home was the first to be destroyed in Kerry during the troubles of 1920.

Gardens & Parks
The Garden of Europe: Listowel's hidden treasure, the Garden of Europe is located in the Childers Park and contains more than 2,500 trees and shrubs from all European countries. It also contains Ireland's only public monument to the memory of the millions who died in the Holocaust.

Childers Park: In 1946 Lord Listowel granted Gurtinard Wood and a beautiful walk to the people of Listowel for a nominal sum of £5.00. In the late 1960's Listowel Urban District Council acquired the nearby 'Cows Lawn', a 30 acre field on which a number of townspeople had pasture rights, and developed it into one of Ireland's finest municipal parks. Today, Childers Park contains and 18 hole Pitch and Putt course, a children's playground, two tennis courts, football pitches and a well equipped sports complex. All visitors are welcome.

The Dandy Lodge: This is nineteenth century cottage, now carefully reconstructed in the Town Park. It appears, in its original location, as the first house in the Bridge Road in the Ordinance Survey map of 1897. It was the a gate lodge to the manor of the agents of Lord Listowel.

The Maid of Erin: Pat McAuliffe (1846 - 1921) left his mark on his native Listowel in the form of some unique items of plasterwork, the most famous of which is The Maid of Erin. This depicts a Romantic image of Mother Ireland surrounded by a harp and wolfhound and other symbols of Eire. Other examples of this craftsman's work can be seen on shop fronts around the town, notably Mai Quinlan's and The Harp and Lion in Church Street.

Abbeydorney Cistercian Abbey: Eight miles from Listowel lies the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey of Kyrie Eleison. The Abbey was founded in 1154, only 12 years after the Cistercians first came to Ireland. Christian O Connairche, the first abbot of Millifont and later papal legate at the synod of Kells in 1152 and the synod of Cashel of 1171-2 died here in 1186. The Cistercian community were soon in decline and in the visitation of 1227, the abbot of O Dorney was, with four other abbots, deposed. Later the community came under the influence, if not control of the Fitzmaurice family. In 1576 the abbey was granted to the earl of Desmond. It was effectively suppressed after the Desmond wars and in 1589 it was given to John Champion of Dingle. He sold in 1599 for £100 and two years later it was bought for £130 by one of the Crosbies. The great enemy of Strafford, Sir Piers Crosbie sold the lands, with others, to his cousin David Crosbie of Ardfert in 1638 to finance his defence of a libel suit brought against him by Strafford. The Cistercians did not die out completely for a considerable time. In 1633 there were only one or two Cistercians in the county, but after that they disappear from history.

Lislaughtin Abbey, Ballylongford: Lislaughtin Abbey is located approximately one mile north of Ballylongford Village, and is a Franciscan Friary founded in 1475 by John O'Connor Kerry. The Friars were of the strict Oservantine rule. The Friary is believed to have been built on the site of an earlier church dedicated to St. Lachtin of Muskerry who died in 622 AD. Up to recently St. Lachtin was held in great regard and locals swore by the "hand of St. Lachtin". This relic which is housed in the National Museum, dates from the 10th century. Up to the late 16th century the Friary was one of the more important religious institutions in Kerry, so much so that a chapter of the Order was held there in 1507. After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII it is evident that there were still monks at Lislaughtin. In 1580 the Abbey was besieged by the Elizabethan forces and three friars who had not fled were clubbed to death before the high alter. The Friars returned to the Abbey in 1629 before the Cromwellian wars brought this part of it's history to an end. Lislaughtin consists of a long house divided into choir and nave - the collapsed square tower was over the choir arch. The nave has two doorways providing access to the interior. The choir is lit by a fine East window divided into four lights by stone mullions, which is surrounded by bar tracery. The south wall of the choir it slit by three windows all divided by stone mullions - the windows are all pointed and of cut limestone. Recessed in the south wall is a triple sedilla, stone seats for the priests and ministers. The two storey building which held the refectory and dormitory was reached from the church by a door in the north wall. This building was lit by 30 windows. To the north east of this building is a structure which was probably the garderrobe (toilet).

Visit for biographies of the Listowel and Kerry writers, and their works.

The Listowel Singers - a mixed choral group.
The Listowel Folk Choir

Cultural Events, Groups & Locations
Listowel Writers' Week: Listowel is host to Ireland's oldest literary festival. Literary competitions, art, drama, poetry, film, music, street dance, story telling, lectures, seminars, book launches, tours and comedy are all part of Writers' Week. For beginner writers there are workshops on every aspect of the published word, meet the author sessions, lectures and readings on almost every imaginable topic, with a competition to suit everybody. The festival takes place during the first weekend in June each year. For further details contact Mary Kennedy, Tel: (+353) 068 21074.

Listowel Harvest Festival of Ireland: This festival takes place in September each year in conjunction with Listowel Races, one of Ireland's most popular race meetings. The Harvest festival includes busking competitions, fun races through the streets of Listowel, the selection of the Harvest Queen and the All-Ireland Wrenboy Bands Competition, pub and street entertainment is available nightly. For further information contact Mara Gorman, Tel: (+353) 068 23036/23037.

Sean McCarthy Weekend: During the August Bank Holiday weekend, Finuge, a small village approximately 4 miles from Listowel, will host a remarkable weekend of folklore, ballad competitions and traditional music. Details are available from Ann Marie O'Sullivan, Tel: (+353) 068 40444.

St. John's Theatre & Arts Centre: A former Church of Ireland Gothic style church, located in the centre of the newly developed Town Square. In 1814 the site for this church was presented to the community by Lord Listowel. A Cork architect, named Payne designed it and it was used by the faithful of North Kerry as a place of worship from 1819 until is deconsecration in 1988. The Church of Ireland community and the people of Listowel were anxious to preserve the building and make it a centre for local cultural activities and heritage. It now houses a Theatre & Arts Centre and Tourist Office. St. John's Theatre & Arts Centre features and annual programme of performances including theatre, music and dance, exhibitions and educational programmes and an annual summer school.

Pub Theatre: During July and August, Listowel plays host to a unique blend of drama, music, song and dance in public houses throughout the Town. Entry is free and participation from the audience is welcome.

Seanchaí - Kerry Literary and Cultural Centre: Seanchaí hosts an interactive audio-visual exhibition on the Literary Tradition of County Kerry. The Centre, located in a 19th century Georgian House in the Square, Listowel, features an exhibition at 3 levels, incorporating 7 rooms and a lobby area. Each room features and aspect of the literary tradition including The 'Seanchaí' Room which will illustrate the history of story telling and its influence on the writers exhibited. The 'Writers' Week' Room illustrates the history of Ireland's longest running literary festival and the significant role it has played in supporting Irish writers. The top floor is dedicated to five nationally and internationally renowned writers from North Kerry, namely John B. Keane, Bryan MacMahon, Brendan Kennelly, Maurice Walsh and George Fitzmaurice. The Centre encompasses profiles on over 80 Kerry writers and a mobile/temporary exhibition area.

Lartigue Monorailway: Devised by a Spanish engineer of that name, this unique railway ran between Listowel and Ballybunion from 1888 to 1924. The only one of its type to commercially operate, the engine, carriages and wagons were divided into two sections, hanging either side of a single centre rail. All that remains of the railway are the decorative foot bridges and engine shed. A replica of the railway is currently being developed and will be operated from its original yard in Listowel.

North Kerry Museum, Ballyduff: Situated at Knoppogue, the ancestral home of the great American silent screen star Mary Pickford, the North Kerry Museum houses a multitude of exhibits dating back centuries and brings you on a journey through time from the Mesolithic and Bronze Age through the Christian Era and Viking Times right up to the last century of landlords and landwars. The Museum provides guided tours, a shop selling local literature and souvenirs as well as car and coach parking. The Museum also houses the Kerry Environmental Recognition Centre which provides information on wild flowers, local and migrant bird life, the seashore and the mammals in the surrounding countryside. The Centre is intended as an area of research for those doing field study and those wishing to become better acquainted with the natural environment and its needs for protection.

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The Lartigue Monorail
The Lartigue Monorail
Listowel Castle By Night
Listowel Castle By Night
VListowel Golf Club
Listowel Golf Club
Irish Towns With A Unique Historic Character And A Link To Ireland's Celtic Past
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